Capileira, perched high in Las Alpujarras of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the Granada province of Spain, is a very attractive small mountain village with stunning views and unique stone architecture. Capileira is located near the Mediterranean coast, an area called the Costa Tropical.
Capileira is close to the city of Granada and close to the primary Costa Tropical towns of Almuñécar, Motril, and Salobreña. It is easily accessible from these larger towns by well maintained paved roads that connect with major highways. Capileira is a very popular tourist destination for both Spaniards and foreigners as because of its architecture, ancient Alpujarras culture, vistas, and proximity to famed nature preserves. The area encompassing the three neighboring villages of Capileira, Bubión, and Pampaneira (each about one kilometer apart), have been designated a Conjunto Histórico Artístico by the Spanish government, an area of particular artistic and historical importance. Capileira is the highest of these villages.
Capileira is near the cities of Malaga, Granada, and Almeria, and is readily accessible from the heart of the Costa Tropical; Almuñécar, Motril, and Salobreña.
- Capileira is located about 78 kilometers south of the city of Granada and Granada airport. Driving from Granada and down the main N-323 highway towards the coast, look for the signs indicating "Las Alpujarras" and "Lanjarón" as you pass over the mountains. Exit the highway and head towards the left (east). Roads will be clearly marked. After passing the town of Lanjarón and just before entering Órgiva, look for the sign indicating directions to Pampaneira, Bubión, and Capileira. Take a left and follow the road straight up into the mountains. You will love the views on the way up, provided you are not bothered by heights. From this turn, it should take about 20 to 30 minutes to reach Capileira. Although Capileira is not far, the road is winding and you can not drive fast on it. Capileira is located after the towns of Pampaneira and Bubión.
- From Malaga, take the N-340 highway east towards Almuñécar, Motril, and Almería. In about an hour after passing Almuñécar and when you reach Salobreña, take highway N-323 clearly marked towards Granada. Capileira is located only 50 kilometers from Salobreña. As you climb the mountains and pass a dam and large lake to your right, look for signs indicating "Las Alpujarras" and "Lanjarón". Exit the highway and head towards the right (east). From here follow the directions noted above from Granada.
- From Almería, take the N-340 highway west towards Málaga and Almuñécar. When you reach Salobreña (before Almuñécar), take highway N-323 clearly marked towards Granada. Follow the directions noted above.
Capileira is the second highest village in Spain and as can be expected, the views in all directions are stunning. To the north, the highest mountains on the Spanish mainland, Veleta and Mulhacén, rise up dramatically and for much of the year are snowcapped. To the south, the Mediterranean Sea quietly shimmers beyond the coastal mountain ranges of Lújar and the Contraviersa. The Rif Mountains of Morocco are sometimes visible from here, particularly in evening light of autumn and winter. For the most outstanding views of the village and the Poqueira Gorge, head north towards the river to the Eras de Aldeire, a series of old threshing floors that were used for wheat and barley. On the southeastern edge of the village is a viewpoint from where you can see down the Poqueira Gorge to Bubión and Pampaneira and north to the Veleta peak.
On Calle Mentidero the town museum, the Museo Etnológico Pedro Antonio Alarcón, has exhibits of local crafts and dress and a display on the 19th-century writer Alarcón who published an interesting account of the Alpujarras, Viaje a la Alpujarra. The museum is open 11:00 to 14:30 Tuesday to Sunday.
Although the old Sierra Nevada Highway runs through Capileira and across the top of the Sierra Nevada mountains towards Granada, automobile traffic is no longer permitted to continue across the mountains to Granada. Thus, Capileira is the highest village that public traffic can reach, although you can continue to a car park where the National park begins and the road can be explored on foot. The National Park runs a limited bus service on the now-closed road (reservations handled by tourist office in the village) in summer. A track leads northwards from the village to the abandoned settlement of La Cebadilla, built to house the workers who developed the hydroelectric installation at the upper end of the Poqueira Gorge.
Capileira has developed a significant tourist trade, acting as a centre for trekking and for accessing the mountains especially Mulhacén. The trek up Mulhacén is treated as a two-day climb from Capileira with an overnight stop at a mountain refuge en route. A bus route connects the village to Granada (via Lanjarón and Órgiva) and Alcútar (via Trevélez and Juviles). The village has good facilities for visitors including restaurants, hotels, and apartments, but retains a traditional Alpujarras character.
All around is unspoiled nature: chestnut, walnut, oak, cherry and mulberry trees. One can see mountain life as it was lived in the past, with locals quietly tending their "huertos" (little vegetable gardens) perched on the terraces, leading flocks of goats and sheep to pasture, and returning home from work in the fields with their mules.
In recent years rural and eco-tourism have developed and is now the mainstay of the economy.
At 1,436 meters above sea level (4.713 feet), Capileira enjoys clear air with low humidity, mild summers, and cold winters.
Capileira was founded in Roman times for mining purposes in the high mountains, After the invasion by the Moors in the 7th Century, it was ruled under the authority of Ugíjar. In the early 16th Century, the Catholic Monarchs ordered the construction of the village church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, on the site of a former mosque. The original church was replaced with the current mudéjar style building in the 18th century.
Because of the Moorish history, the architecture of Capileira is similar to that of the Berbers in the Atlas mountains of North Africa. Characterized by flat mossy roofs and tall chimneys capped by broad slate stones that look like hats, the houses spill down the steep mountainside, connected by quaint walkways and winding, cobble-stoned streets.
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